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Apple, the RIAA, and Ringtones 218

Posted by Zonk
from the tangled-web dept.
pilsner.urquell writes "Apple's interest in defending the rights of the consumer has cost them a lot of grief in the ringtone market. 'John Gruber of the Daring Fireball cites Engadget, which reported that the RIAA wanted to be able to distribute ringtones of its artists without having to pay them big money to do so. It won a decision last year before the Copyright Office saying that ringtones weren't derivative works, meaning they didn't infringe on the copyright of the songwriter.' The piece goes on to explain the tense relationship between Apple content holders regarding ringtones and other pieces of IP, such as in the recent withdrawal of NBC."
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Apple, the RIAA, and Ringtones

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  • by jonwil (467024) on Monday September 17, 2007 @07:12AM (#20634189)
    Playing an audio file from your phone through speakers requires different permissions than playing the same audio file from the same phone through the same speakers in response to a phone call event... How screwed up is that?

    • by ArCh3r (688116) on Monday September 17, 2007 @07:13AM (#20634199)
      You are new to this country I see.
    • by Professor_UNIX (867045) on Monday September 17, 2007 @07:18AM (#20634219)
      Pretty soon we'll need to buy one DVD per DVD player and they'll have some kind of activation thing where the first time you play it ties it to that DVD player if we keep going down this road.
      • Pretty soon we'll need to buy one DVD per DVD player...
        Sssshhhhh!! They'll hear you...
      • by pushing-robot (1037830) on Monday September 17, 2007 @07:32AM (#20634289)

        Pretty soon we'll need to buy one DVD per DVD player and they'll have some kind of activation thing where the first time you play it ties it to that DVD player if we keep going down this road.
        I remember that. [wikipedia.org]
      • As far as I've understood, BluRay already has support for that. They just don't use it - yet.

        Eivind.

      • I think that the RIAA/MPAA absolutely want a pay-per-device or even a pay-per-listen/pay-per-view business model. In fact, it sometimes seems like they think they deserve to be paid whether you're using their product or not. For example, Universal has demanded to get a cut of consumer electronics (like the Zune and iPod) just on the off chance that those electronics might be used to play music from Universal.

        Paid for doing nothing: it's great work if you can find it.

      • by suv4x4 (956391)
        Pretty soon we'll need to buy one DVD per DVD player and they'll have some kind of activation thing where the first time you play it ties it to that DVD player if we keep going down this road.

        It's already like that, in the form of intengible, locked-to-this-machine DRM downloads.

        You realize in 10 years DVD's maybe won't even be published anymore.

        We're about to enter the next level of digital right management hell now.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by j00r0m4nc3r (959816)
      Yeah, and neither of those events generates a royalty for the artist. Welcome to CrazyLand.
    • Yeah, I found that strange, too. I could more than well understand a ruling static something like ringtones being freely distributable due to being so much shorter and of so much lower quality than the original song, or something like that. But not being a derivative work of the original song? Does Copyright Office actually have some kind of point here that I don't see, or are they just being stupid, or have they been bought by the MAFIAA?
      • Re:Weird, that (Score:5, Informative)

        by EvanED (569694) <evaned@@@gmail...com> on Monday September 17, 2007 @07:41AM (#20634343)
        No, the submitter either didn't RTFA or felt like being misleading. Engadget did report that, but they were wrong, as the article explains in the very next paragraph:

        Writing about Apple's iTunes ringtones, John Gruber of the Daring Fireball cited Engadget, which reported that "the RIAA wanted to be able to distribute ringtones of its artists without having to pay them big money to do so (surprised?), and it won a decision last year before the Copyright Office saying that ringtones weren't 'derivative works,' meaning they didn't infringe on the copyright of the songwriter."

        Engadget, known for shooting from the hip rather than the brain, didn't really understand whole story. From its report, Gruber concluded, "So if you have the right to play a song, you have the right to use it as a ringtone on your phone."

        Gruber blamed a "complicated, confusing mess of a ringtone policy" on Apple, and suggested the company should have simply handed out tools to create ringtones from any users. Incidentally, that's apparently what Apple was going to do back in January.

        Derk Nek of Epplegacks explained that--unfortunately--what the RIAA actually won in the case cited by Engadget was instead the right to collect money for ringtones without distributing those fees to the artists they represent. There was no establishing that ringtones are not protected intellectual property, so the RIAA will continue collecting royalty fees, because distributing songs or portions of songs requires mechanical rights. Playing a ringtone might also--in the mind of the RIAA and the letter of the law--require performing rights.
        • Re:Weird, that (Score:5, Insightful)

          by GeckoX (259575) on Monday September 17, 2007 @08:47AM (#20634835)
          What we need is for the Artists to revolt against this. It goes way way too far. They already get screwed by the MAFIAA, and now the MAFIAA got a legal standing that they are allowed to make money off of the artists work, but have no obligation to pay the artists.

          These assholes, in theory, are supposed to be working FOR the artists. The ONLY reason the MAFIAA exists in the first place is because of the artists...No artists...No music...No money to collect royalties for.

          The MAFIAA needs to be taken out back and shot. It's the humane thing to do after all.
          • seriously, they are for the artists in name alone.
            the problem is that the big labels sign on with the RIAA to protect THEIR interests. some bigger artists are slowly working on cutting out the middleman, but they are taking baby steps. the thing is that the majors still have the power to promote the hell out of an artist/band and if a new artist/band tries to stand up to this, the label will just find somebody else willing to sell their soul for a chance at fame.

            at Apple's last iPod press event, Steve Jobs
    • Obligatory Link (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Nymz (905908)
    • by phoebe (196531) on Monday September 17, 2007 @07:48AM (#20634381)
      My Sharp SX633A [smartone-vodafone.com] follows through with this, it supports Mp3/AAC/AAC+/MPEG4,3GP audio file/container formats but only the polyphonic 3GP can be used for the actual ringtone. The vodafone website graphic even lists "MP3 ringtone" support, but in fact its only for playback as music, not as an actual ringtone for the phone. Utterly retarded.
      • by CastrTroy (595695) on Monday September 17, 2007 @08:46AM (#20634829) Homepage
        That feature may have been disabled by your cellphone provider. Cell phone providers do this stuff all the time. They disable the ability for you to load your own content onto the phone, so they can sell you the content. From what I understand, they make pretty good money doing it. What I would wonder is, if they provided the means for doing it, and actually provided a website with tons of content, couldn't they make more on ads on that website, as well as increased user base? They could also have related purchases. So if you buy th latest ringtone by the backstreet boys, they could also try to sell you the CD, or the actual song. Maybe free ringtone with the purchase of an album. Seems like a much better way to manage the thing than charging $3.00 for a ringtone or $1.50 for a 320x240 wallpaper for your phone. I guarantee that every 13-19 year old would immediately switch to that phone company if the air time was still at competitive rates.
        • by ceoyoyo (59147)
          Or you could just buy an unlocked phone that hasn't been disabled by the company. It has the additional benefit that if said company starts screwing you around you can go find another one.
      • by Greyfox (87712)
        My Nokia E70, which I got unlocked from an importer, allows me to set any sound file it's capable of playing as the ring tone. The only reason most US cellphones can't is because the service provider disables the feature so they can charge you $.99 (or $2) to do the conversion of a 30 second sound clip for you.

        It seems this ruling says that if you can legally play a song you can legally use a clip of it as a ring tone. IANAL but I think that means that you can safely do the conversion on your own assuming

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by antek9 (305362)

      Playing an audio file from your phone through speakers requires different permissions than playing the same audio file from the same phone through the same speakers in response to a phone call event... How screwed up is that?

      Well, somehow this rule seems to apply to Apple phones only. Most other phones will be happy to play anything playable as a ringer.

      Note to consumers: Don't pay for ringtones! Help stop those stupid commercials on TV by making their business model fail. This might be one of the rare occasions where an organized boycott might actually make sense and work out fine.

      • by Drathos (1092) on Monday September 17, 2007 @08:34AM (#20634723)
        You must not have used a Verizon phone before. Even if the phone itself is capable of playing any old mp3 as a ringtone, Verizon specifically disables this so you have to buy ringtones through their service.
        • by Mr2001 (90979) on Monday September 17, 2007 @08:43AM (#20634795) Homepage Journal

          Even if the phone itself is capable of playing any old mp3 as a ringtone, Verizon specifically disables this so you have to buy ringtones through their service.
          Well, they don't make it easy, but you can still put your own ringtones on. All you have to do is get a USB cable for the phone and download BitPim [bitpim.org], which can easily manage ringtones and/or directly edit the filesystem for most VZW phones.

          If you don't want to do that, you can even email the ringtones to your phone (your 10 digit number @vzwpix.com), although MP3s will be converted to QCP in the process and lose some quality, and you'll be charged 25c for the message unless you have a picture messaging plan.
          • by Tim C (15259)
            Wow. I am constantly amazed at the crap US mobile phone users seem to have to put up with.

            If I want to get a file on to my phone (Sony Ericsson K800i with Orange in the UK), I connect it to my PC using the supplied USB cable and drag and drop it using Explorer. If it's playable, I can use it as a ring tone.

            Pay for ring tones? I understand that people do, I've just never really understood *why*.
            • by Deagol (323173)

              Wow. I am constantly amazed at the crap US mobile phone users seem to have to put up with.

              Indeed. There is so little value added to US wireless service that I finally, after 10 years of cell phone ownership, kicked my Verizon account to the curb and liberated myself from wireless hell. Of course, I'm in my mid-30s (married, w/ kids) and no longer hip and socially affluent, so it was quite easy to do. :)

              Some day, when I can get unlimited air time w/o roaming charges throughout the entire continental

      • by MoonBuggy (611105)

        Well, somehow this rule seems to apply to Apple phones only. Most other phones will be happy to play anything playable as a ringer.

        Idiotic as I think the concept of paying twice for a song and the right to use it as a ringtone is, it would be true to say that Apple is the only phone company with a vested interest in not pissing off the music industry. I'm not saying I like the decisions Apple's made with the iPhone, but it does appear that in this case at least they were simply having their hand forced by

    • by bhima (46039)
      Soemwhere I saw the M.A.F.I.A.A.'s own lawyers say if you had rights to play a given song, you had rights to use it as a ringtone. This is just a case of crazy over the top greed. So it's business as usual.
    • by catbutt (469582)
      Well just as food for thought / playing the devil's advocate....what about playing the song to a stadium full of people as part of a performance? Would you expect the fact that you paid for the song to cover that as well?
    • by LWATCDR (28044)
      Well according to the NFL I can not tell you about the Miami vs Dallas game that I watched last night. Well if I get their permission I can.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Lepton68 (116619)
      Here is the thing: DON'T make separate ringtone files. Have the ring play the orginal file, the full song you have on the phone for listening to as music. You can set a portion of THAT file to play, you can set it to fade in and out, and to play when someone happens to call. Why do this? Because you don't need any new rights to do it. You already bought the rights to play that song. And you can play any part of that song you want, when you want. You are simply automating the process.

      Do this, Apple, and ther

  • by Apple Acolyte (517892) on Monday September 17, 2007 @07:16AM (#20634213)
    They want to have their revenue cake and eat it too, and they don't even want to cut the original authors in. They are an unnecessary drain on the digital marketplace, a dinosaur of the 20th Century. Eventually these cartels will be replaced, since the goods they offer have little compelling reason to be sold in physical formats. It's a just a question of time before key producers decide it makes sufficient financial sense to bypass them completely.
    • From TFA
      "Apple makes very little from sales of music in iTunes; the vast majority of revenues are funneled back to the record companies, which then devise how to avoid paying their talent and keep as much as they can."

      Looks like the author of the article agrees with you. Even if the article does seem as biased as a slashdot poster...
      • by CastrTroy (595695) on Monday September 17, 2007 @08:53AM (#20634903) Homepage
        Maybe Apple needs to be dealing with better record labels. eMusic sells songs for about $0.30 a song. Half goes to the artist/label, and half goes to eMusic. They're probably making more per song than Apple is. And the artists, because they are indie labels, are probably getting more per song too. And the customers are getting more songs for their money. That's what a song should cost. Although a song for a quarter would be nice. Make the purchase an non-decision. If you like it download it. With songs costing $0.99 they make me stop and think about whether I want to buy the song or not, same with CDs for $15. If things were priced cheap enough, like $0.25 for a song, or $5.00 for a physical CD, then people would just buy everything they like, instead of having to decide whether or not the purchase is actually worth it. I've spent more money on eMusic in the past year than I spent on CDs in the past 5 years, because I actually feel like I'm not being ripped off.
        • I agree. .25 a song AND they keep a record that I purchased it so I can redownload it in the future for cost (.10?, .05?).
          • by CastrTroy (595695)
            Redownload for cost? the cost of bandwidth is probably less than .5 of a cent. eMusic keeps records of the songs you buy, and you can redownload your music as much as you want. I don't know how iTunes gets away with such high prices, and such bad service. Besides, I'm pretty sure Apples keeps records of what you download. I hear if you complain enough they'll let you redownload stuff. I would hate to have a hard drive crash, and lose a bunch of music. Sure you can back it up, but even if you do that on
    • by mwvdlee (775178)
      Having key producers bypass the middle men would be a good start, but it would die out as soon as those producers stop. What you'd need is a new type of middle man that can help new artists get noticed without owning the artist; a sort of music service company.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by TheRaven64 (641858)
        CDBaby are almost like that, but they're being very slow adapting to the Internet age. They still require you to mail them physical CDs, for example, when for a lot of people it would be much easier to just upload their album, cover art, etc. For downloads, they don't need a physical copy at all, and for CD sales it would be easier to have CDBaby handle the duplication.
        • by mwvdlee (775178)
          Correct me if I'm wrong, but that's just the distribution channel?
          Another major "job" of traditional music companies is to handle public relations and marketing for the artists. There needs to be a viable alternative to this. Actually the model wouldn't need to change that much; just keep ownership of the music with the artists and have the current companies work for royalties.
          • There needs to be a viable alternative to this.

            The problem with that idea is that it's still important for artists to get radio airtime. And pretty much all the radio stations are owned by a few big companies (e.g. ClearChannel) which are chummy with the RIAA. And that radio station cartel is supported, aided and abetted by the FCC.

            In other words, to break the RIAA we also have to break the FCC.

          • by Znork (31774)
            "There needs to be a viable alternative to this."

            Why? I dont see any value added by the marketing. It just distorts the market, ensuring that anything that isnt minimum common denominator music will get far less than its fair share of market size, market space and revenue (see payola, channel control, cost of entry, etc).

            The unbalanced incentive and revenue multiplication effects of marketing and monopoly rights is largely what has caused the cultural poverty and economic disparity within the music market s
          • Another major "job" of traditional music companies is to handle public relations and marketing for the artists. There needs to be a viable alternative to this.

            Like a web page or something?
    • It's a just a question of time before key producers decide it makes sufficient financial sense to bypass them completely.

      Like Prince [betanews.com]?
  • by matt me (850665)
    Of course, ringtones aren't art, are they? The nokia bastardisation of tarregas grand vals.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by arivanov (12034)
      They are art. The art of annoyance.

      You can also use them for performing art. If they are really annoying you can score a 3 point hitting a suitable bucket at the other end of the office (filled with waste water from that kitchenette floor mop if possible). If that does not qualify as performance art the performance thrown by the person who put "The Winner Takes it All" by Abba as a ringtone will. Especially afer he has fished the phone out of the bucket.
  • So, it's free? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Carewolf (581105) on Monday September 17, 2007 @07:25AM (#20634237) Homepage
    If a song as a ringtone isn't a derived product, and RIAA can makes ringtones of popular music without infringing the copyright of the artists that means we (anyone) can also make our own ringtones of popular music without infringing anyones copyright...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by richie2000 (159732)
      No, it's just a different copyright, one that's owned by the RIAA. The RIAA gets the laws that the RIAA pays for.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        A ringtone you download specifically as a ringtone might be copyrighted by some party. But if ringtones are indeed NOT derivative works, and not covered under the original piece's copyright, then, as long as you can legally make a ringtone out of a piece of music you possess, that ringtone you made yourself should be free for you to use and distribute as you please. If the original -> ringtone copyright link is broken, then the only party who can possibly claim copyright over the ringtone is whoever made
        • Yeah, but this was about ringtones made by, and distributed by, a RIAA member. I'm sure they'll find a way to only let authorized (paying) parties create ringtones.
        • by CastrTroy (595695)
          But what is a ringtone? How long can it be? What quality can it be recorded at? If I want my ringtone to be the entire song, encoded in MP3 at 128 kbps, then is that still a ringtone? And can people trading music on P2P or other networks now argue that they are just trading ringtones, which they are legally entitled to do?
    • Re:So, it's free? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Carewolf (581105) on Monday September 17, 2007 @07:38AM (#20634327) Homepage
      Answering my own comment after RFTA:

      Derk Nek of Epplegacks explained that--unfortunately--what the RIAA actually won in the case cited by Engadget was instead the right to collect money for ringtones without distributing those fees to the artists they represent. There was no establishing that ringtones are not protected intellectual property, so the RIAA will continue collecting royalty fees, because distributing songs or portions of songs requires mechanical rights. Playing a ringtone might also--in the mind of the RIAA and the letter of the law--require performing rights.


      Though it doesn't get any less fucked up by this explaination.

      • by kocsonya (141716)
        The interesting bit is that if the RIAA manages to get paid for ringtones without even pretending to give a single cent back to the artist, how are they going to run their 'ringtone privacy makes artists starve, think about the artists, the future of culture depends on your vigilance' campaign?

        The whole ringtone thing is just daylight robbery anyway. Don't know about the rest of the world and not really interested in general (my mobile can play any MP3 for ringtone and it's set to normal telephone ring anyw
      • Playing a ringtone might also--in the mind of the RIAA and the letter of the law--require performing rights.

        Hmmm, an interesting concept for something that is impossible to copyright to begin with. Of course, this is the country that fined Girl Scouts for performing "God Bless America" without permission.

        Another interesting legal concept is Performance Liability. I mean, what if someone is hurt during the performance? Who's fault is it? For instance, if I program my cell phone to ring "Thriller" in a

    • No that won't work. Don't you know that these days fair use only applies to the RIAA?
  • Wait, they own what? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Aladrin (926209) on Monday September 17, 2007 @07:33AM (#20634299)
    Since when does the RIAA own the copyrights to anything? How can they possibly collect money on copyrights they don't own if they aren't representing the copyright owner?

    According to TFA, they won a decision not in court, but simply at the Copyright Office. I don't see any links to this decision itself, and I don't have time to search for it with the insignificant amount of information we are given, so I don't have any idea what this actually says... But I can't see how the Copyright Office is able to give distribution rights other than the information that something is or is not covered under copyright law. They cannot say it's not copyrighted and then authorize the RIAA to collect money, and they can't say it's copyrighted and give the RIAA permission to ignore it and not pay the copyright owner.

    Anyone got any more -real- information, instead of just a link to site that links to a site that claims something that isn't cited at all?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by rufty_tufty (888596)
      Nope it's more than that, the RIAA has literally got it's cake and is eating it. The case states (apparently) that not only can they collect revenue from ringtones without paying the artists, but that the ringtones would still be protected by copyright.

      From TFA:
      "what the RIAA actually won in the case ... was instead the right to collect money for ringtones without distributing those fees to the artists they represent. There was no establishing that ringtones are not protected intellectual property, so the R
  • So ringtones aren't a derivative work.

    This means we should be able to create our own ringtones, the artists and media cartels be damned, right? And distribute them freely?

    So if that's the case, why are tabs derivative works? Huge archives of fan-made tabs have been taken down. What makes tabs so special compared to ringtones?
    • Re-reading the article, it seems like there is no issue making the ringtone from a song you have, but to use it would require a public performance license, which you don't have (and don't shoot me, I'm only reading the article). So the record companies really pulled a fast one on both consumers and the musicians.
    • Re:Derivative (Score:4, Insightful)

      by *weasel (174362) on Monday September 17, 2007 @09:12AM (#20635125)
      Yes, No.

      If a ringtone isn't a derivative work, then yes, we can make them all we want (provided we have a legit copy of the song to start with). But no, we can't distribute them, for the same reason we can't distribute the original song. Their not being derivatives doesn't mean they aren't covered under copyright, it just means they're covered under the original song's copyright. The RIAA liked this, because it meant they could whore out any track they had mechanical rights to, as ringtone fodder, without having to renegotiate anything with the artists.

      Tabs are different because they're a separate fixed form (written vs recorded) reproduced in whole (vs a slice of the original recording); it's the same for sheets in general and lyrics. (something the RIAA has been slow to come down on, but it'll happen. Just as soon as they figure out how to monetize a lyrics database.

      Also, I would like to say that the concern about performing rights is a joke. Sure, performance rights have been used by ASCAP to shake down businesses that play music for their customers and the occasional giant outdoor party. (e.g. annual block party) But the idea that someone would use a 30 second ringtone to 'perform' a song for an audience is absurd on its face.

      The purpose of the ringtone is to be heard by the phone's owner. In the bizarre edge cases where people make ringtones of entire songs and play them, on purpose, to entertain a crowd is no different than people using an ipod, boombox or music-playing phone to do the same, right now. There is clearly no need to cut ASCAP in on all ringtone sales for the same reason there is no need to cut them in on all CD sales. ASCAP is likely just so used to getting whatever they want with a nasty legal brief or two that they honestly think it's worth their lawyers fees to take a shot.
      • by profplump (309017)
        Their not being derivatives doesn't mean they aren't covered under copyright, it just means they're covered under the original song's copyright.

        That's exactly the opposite of what "not being derivatives" means, at least in the context of new works and copyright.

        There are three options here:
        1. The new work is an exact, complete copy of the original, and simple copyright rules apply.
        2. The new work is a derivative of the original work and cannot be distributed without permission from the original copyright h
  • That is what this country really needs. The FURIAA would basically reaffirm the First Amendment by ensuring that Congress shall make no laws restricting the free sharing of information among the people.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by chuckymonkey (1059244)
      We do not need Vin Deisel in congress.
      • by sqrt(2) (786011)
        I just faced palmed at your post. Worse than that is I thought of that joke before reading your reply.
  • Somewhat offtopic, but often Slashdot warns if TFA is pdf or flash. In this case, the article has style="visibility: hidden;" on the text of the article, so that it only appears when you turn javascript on (or turn off CSS). You're all paid-up geeks, so you're all surfing the web with noscript [noscript.net] whitelisting... right?

    The words obnoxious, useless and stupid spring to mind.
    • by mkiwi (585287)
      You're all paid-up geeks, so you're all surfing the web with noscript [noscript.net] whitelisting... right?

      If we did that, it would make if awfully difficult to visit some of our favorite porn sites. ;-)

    • Interesting hack.

      No, I don't surf with javascript disabled. I've read all the articles about how I should, haven't found them compelling. But I agree with you that it's reasonable to ask /. to put "warning: javascript required" on the article. You also should have made that your subject, so people reading here would get the picture quicker. :)
  • Even if you can identify the song via the tone?

    Come on RIAA, you cant have it both ways.
  • Defense? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ratboy666 (104074) <fred_weigel.hotmail@com> on Monday September 17, 2007 @08:24AM (#20634653) Homepage Journal
    Your honour, I was just distributing high quality ring tones, produced by converting audio CD into mp3 format, and, as has been argued by the RIAA, the ring tones are not derivitive works; therefore no copyright violation has occurred.

    We argue estopel, and the defense rests.

  • by clarkkent09 (1104833) on Monday September 17, 2007 @08:29AM (#20634697)
    I just googled "ringtones" and it came up with 112 million results. Going by the first 3-4 pages, most of them seem to be either selling or offering "free" ringtones. Some comparisons:

    bread: 78 million
    oxygen: 91 million
    global warming: 80 million
    world peace: 2.8 million
    liberty: 95 million

    But, fortunately:

    beer: 128 million

    Whew... close
  • nice job Slashdot (Score:4, Informative)

    by crayz (1056) on Monday September 17, 2007 @08:32AM (#20634709) Homepage
    Article summary quotes text that is then shot down a paragraph later as incorrect. Try this instead:

    Ask Not For Whom the Ring Tones.

    Writing about Apple's iTunes ringtones, John Gruber of the Daring Fireball cited Engadget, which reported that "the RIAA wanted to be able to distribute ringtones of its artists without having to pay them big money to do so (surprised?), and it won a decision last year before the Copyright Office saying that ringtones weren't 'derivative works,' meaning they didn't infringe on the copyright of the songwriter."

    Engadget, known for shooting from the hip rather than the brain, didn't really understand whole story. From its report, Gruber concluded, "So if you have the right to play a song, you have the right to use it as a ringtone on your phone."

    Gruber blamed a "complicated, confusing mess of a ringtone policy" on Apple, and suggested the company should have simply handed out tools to create ringtones from any users. Incidentally, that's apparently what Apple was going to do back in January.

    Derk Nek of Epplegacks explained that--unfortunately--what the RIAA actually won in the case cited by Engadget was instead the right to collect money for ringtones without distributing those fees to the artists they represent. There was no establishing that ringtones are not protected intellectual property, so the RIAA will continue collecting royalty fees, because distributing songs or portions of songs requires mechanical rights. Playing a ringtone might also--in the mind of the RIAA and the letter of the law--require performing rights.
  • If ringtones are not derivative works then why do we have to pay for them anyway?
  • by pbooktebo (699003) on Monday September 17, 2007 @08:51AM (#20634889)
    One thing the article doesn't cover is the fact that consumers have a legal right to "make their own" ringtone from music they own. According to this article by Sasha Frere-Jones in the New Yorker, consumers can create their own ringtones from music they own legally:

    "Or you can do it yourself: some new cell-phone models can be connected to a computer by a data cable, allowing you to create master tones from MP3 files at home. However it is done, transferring music that you own to your phone is legal under copyright law."

    source: http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2005/03/07/050307crmu_music [newyorker.com]
    By the way, this is one of the best articles on ringtones, covering the technical advances from monophonic MIDI to compressed audio, and the impact on the aesthetics of ringtones. I teach a class on music technology, and the first assignment is to have students compose and create their own ringtone (not by ripping from a CD, actually creating their own). I use the New Yorker article to get everyone up to speed on how big ringtones are in the world today.
    • The New Yorker has become my favorite magazine in the last couple of years -- while I learn more from New Scientist and the like, it's mostly party knowledge ("Did you know that only four complete mastodons have ever been found?" yeah, I'm a riot at parties) while reading the NY is like reading Slashdot at +6. They consistently write interesting, introspective, and sometimes even funny things about economics, medicine, and quite often about copyright/trademark stuff. And the cartoons are *brilliant*.
  • Ringtones derived from the song (usually by a human interpreter) aren't derivative works controlled by copyright, but a human interpreter performing the song is a derivative work?

    Copyright law economics will replace all musicians with machines. Especially because all the new that music record corps are pushing on us sucks worse than a machine, usually because it was made by a clone.
  • then why can't we make our own ring tones instead of using RIAA's?
  • The article about Apple, RIAA, and ringtones was very informative, but it departs from a premise that's not always true.

    And here it is: what if the sounds I want to use as ringtones are my own creation, or public domain, or licensed under a CC license, or cleared by means other than an iTunes purchase?

    And what about new business models? What if some upcoming artists (or established ones like They Might be Giants) want to release samples and allow them to be used as ringtones and copied around?

    The author men
  • ... that ringtones often made more money for the companies than the original song itself. Are RIAA members really depriving the artists that supply the content to them to sell? That's quite a broken business model...

    Ian W.
  • I play Middle Eastern music and I'd like to use a recording of my own group as my ringtone. Apparently, RIAA has set things up such that I can't even produce my own ringtone! I resent that!
  • by stevewahl (311107) on Monday September 17, 2007 @12:09PM (#20637607)
    First, IANAL. But I do pay close attention to copyright laws, they affect all of us.

    Second, the ruling on ringtones not being a derived work: it probably means that the ringtone is just another mechanical copy of the song, for which the record labels would have to pay whatever fee they've already negotiated with the artist in their current contracts, instead of being a derived work of a different sort which would require new negotiations with each artist.

    I know that's not what the article says, and I haven't researched it. But it's what makes sense. (Yeah, yeah, since when does making sense have anything to do with copyright law?)

    Third, if you have a song on your phone and a ringtone, the ringtone is kept in a separate file. It is a copy of the song, subject to copyright laws (because you've made a copy). This is necessary because the ring mechanisms in the phone always play the whole file, from the begining.

    What we need instead is phone ringers that will use an existing, full length song file, but start playing at an offset into the file, and only play part of the file. Then you only need one file on the phone, and the whole question of paying twice is moot.
  • The really dumb thing about all this is the fact that there is a "ringtone market" in the first place. There's no technical reason that you can't just supply a sound from your own mp3 library, or use a simple tool to extract a clip from a CD that you own. However, the cell phone industry is carefully constructed to extract as much money from people as possible.

    Why anyone would want a 15 second song clip to play when they get a phone call is a separate question. It annoys the people around them, and it's a g
  • by Stormwatch (703920) <rodrigogirao@@@hotmail...com> on Monday September 17, 2007 @02:39PM (#20640481) Homepage
    Why don't people have phones that sound like real phones? You know... RRRRRRING RRRRRRING. Not a crappy-sounding excerpt from some badly composed, poorly played, awfully sung, insanely overcompressed piece of noise that passes as music these days... NOW GET OFF MY LAWN!

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